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Energy Department is probing gas price jumps

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Energy Department is investigating whether price gouging was involved in the unusually large gasoline price jumps that followed the Northeast power blackout and continued through the Labor Day weekend.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told lawmakers complaining about the skyrocketing prices at gas pumps that the department began an inquiry this week to determine whether factors other than normal market conditions played a role in the price increases. If irregularities are found, the information could be turned over to the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission.

Gasoline prices, on a national average, reached a record $1.75 cents a gallon last week, jumping more than 12 cents a gallon from the week before. In some areas the run-up was even higher, with drivers reporting price increases of a dime a gallon overnight.